Literacy Coaching: Roles and Responsibilities

Pa Thao, Gardner-Webb University


Literacy coaching has emerged as a popular strategy for school reform to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement in reading. Unfortunately, districts are hiring literacy coaches without a clear job description for the position. This is resulting in a broad focus for coaching and minimizing the impact of the work to support teachers in the classroom. A plethora of research (Bean, Draper, Hall, Vandermolen, & Zigmond, 2010; Collet, 2012; Elish-Piper & L'Allier, 2011; Lucas, 2011; Matsumura, Garnier, & Resnick, 2010; Peterson, Taylor, Burnham, & Schock, 2011; Steckel, 2009; Stephens, Morgan, Deford, Donelly, Hamel, & Crowder, 2011; Vanderburg & Stephens, 2010) exists that illuminates a clear analysis of the factors which can be used to determine the effectiveness of a literacy coach. However, a similar amount of research (Bean & Dagen, 2012; Bean & Zigmond, 2007; Deussen, Coskie, Robinson, & Autio, 2007; Elish-Piper & L'Allier, 2011; Kissel, Mraz, Algozzine, & Stover, 2011; Mraz, Algozzine, & Watson, 2008; Scott, Cortina, & Carlisle, 2012) also exists presenting the inconsistent roles and responsibilities of literacy coaching in school districts.

The purpose of this sequential mixed-method study was to determine and define the elementary literacy coaching roles and responsibilities that classroom teachers, literacy coaches, and principals valued the most to positively impact teacher practice and student achievement in an urban southeastern school district. Knowing these precepts might help literacy coaches become more efficient and be valuable resources for both classroom teachers and principals. Data from cross-sectional surveys, focus groups, and sample weekly literacy coaching schedules determined literacy coaching roles and responsibilities within the district. Perceptions of classroom teachers, literacy coaches, and principals about literacy coaching examined both desirable and undesirable practices and techniques to ensure an effective literacy coaching model based on all stakeholders' needs.

The findings of this study indicated an inconsistent agreement between the roles and responsibilities of elementary literacy coaches as perceived by principals, literacy coaches, and teachers. Current quantitative data suggested that coaches are perceived as coordinators of the reading program; however, qualitative data reported coaches were exhausting their time as contributors to student testing. Another inconsistency in the survey results were the teachers' desires for literacy coaches to instruct students, but the focus groups' discussions clarified a need for coaches as the experts to spend more time coaching teachers on specific strategies to instruct students. All participants expressed a need for coaches to be resources to classroom teachers, which would align with the quantitative data. However, the qualitative results extended this desire to follow an ongoing coaching model rather than leading a one-time professional development, providing resources and lessons during the planning sessions, or facilitating book studies.